Wowed by the waterfront: Hundreds get look at progress

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CLEVELAND-- Cleveland city leaders showed off their plans to develop the shores of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Hundreds of people took an evening cruise to see the plans for, and the progress of, the city’s waterfront development projects.

The cruise was called “Back to the Future II: The Waterfront Tour.”  A similar tour was conducted five years ago, where city leaders talked about their plans.  This time, there was something to show for it.

Hundreds of curious and eager passengers boarded the Goodtime III for a guided tour of the progress being made along the shores of Cleveland's two most important waterways: Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.

"This is all about the connectivity of Cleveland to its major asset, which is water," said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

The Goodtime set sail from North Coast Harbor, behind the Rock Hall Wednesday evening.  Plans are for the harbor to include restaurants, potentially a boutique hotel and a pedestrian bridge, which could be completed in 2015, to give people access to other amenities, all taking shape in the next couple years.

The ship sailed past two warehouses behind FirstEnergy Stadium that are scheduled to make way for even more development.

"It would include 250 units of market rate housing, 80-thousand square feet of office space and related retail," said Ed Rybka, Cleveland’s Chief of Regional Development, who also guided parts of the tour.

"It's very encouraging to see the development of the lakefront. It's something that we've been hoping for, we've seen in other cities and it's essential for Cleveland to grow in the 21st century," said Cleveland business owner, Iain Walker.

They turned into the Cuyahoga River, past the old Coast Guard station, which could be a special-event venue.  Then, past the second phase of the East Bank Flats project, starting to take shape.

When finished, it'll include 243 apartments, ground level retail, clubs and restaurants, as well as a 1,200 foot Boardwalk.

"I'm from Cleveland. I've been here all my life and it has really come a long way," said another passenger.

"The waterfronts are probably the city's greatest assets and I think there's a recognition by the mayor and others that they're really under-utilized," said passenger, Byron White.

Other highlights include new Metroparks restaurants, trails and parks along the river, including a permanent home for the Rowing Federation.  The tour showed the progress of the Innerbelt Bridge, slated for completion in 2016, before turning back to port.

"It's great to see the possibilities coming to light. I think we're at a cusp here in Cleveland right now," said passenger, Craig James.

Mayor Jackson said some of the projects are fully funded and in the process of design or construction.  He said some are still in the planning stages.

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